Sunday, November 30, 2008

Learning Skills

Catching up on my blog reading again- I'm home with some sort of nasty virus (How come I keep picking these things up? It must be the change of season.)

Anyway- Tooyoungtoteach has a great post up on learning Torah for girls.
It's actually a very interesting concept.

I'm not referring to girls learning Gemara, or the famous jokes about a certain seminary who seem to want chavrusas, not husbands (they were actually told at my friend from that seminary's wedding- it seems to be public knowledge.)

I'm talking about opening up a Chumash and learning inside. Or a Navi. Or some Kesuvim, or a mussar sefer- excellent from R' Shimshon Pincus- or Sifsei Chaim, Mesilas Yesharim, Chovos HaLevavos, or one of my personal favorites- Sichos Mussar.

What could be wrong with that? Maybe I'm just blessed in my company- but the women I talk to, and speak to- all seem to be well versed in these subjects, and incorporate them into their daily lives.

Mussar comes into play with child-rearing, with Yiras Hashem and Ahavas Hashem- and it comes into play with my daily life as well!

Plus, I may be very zoche- but my husband enjoys talking with me about such things. Thank
G-d, due to my voracious reading as a youngster, I have a very broad base of Tanach, with many midrashim- allowing me to have some points of reference to what he may bring up from Gemara. It's interesting, applicable- and I gain so much from it! (Thanks, Mr.NMF, if you're reading this.)

I was encouraged in seminary to look up things, question, seek answers, and find them, usually in one of the myriad sefarim that we learnt.

And here in Israel, everyone is knowledgable about Torah- from the bus and cab drivers, to the meshulachim, to the average housewife. It's more common, and more in practice to quote a line from the Sichos Mussar to your neighbor about Gaavah, in reference to a communal incident. (Just an example- fictional.)

Torah just spills out from this city- how could it be wrong for a woman or girl to benefit from this?

Please don't start talking about the controversial subjects mentioned above- but I think, personally, that learning Tanach and Mussar for women is an excellent thing, one I try to do as often as I can. Kudos to all those who do.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

UPDATE: Rachmana L'tzlan- the hostages in the Chabad house were brutally murdered- Hashem Yekom Damam.
The Rabbi, his wife, Rabbi Teitelbaum (T.A.Y. SIL), and three others are reported among those killed.

Such Tzaros for Klal Yisroel!! And they say that the Chabad house was a preselected target by the terrorists.
Oy. I'm weeping just hearing about it.

Please say tehillim for Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma (Rabbi Holtzberg), his wife (Rivka bas Yehudis) and all the other hostages in the Chabad-Lubavitch house in Mumbai. Two mashgichim are also being held hostage, one of them the son-in-law of the Toldos Aharon Yitzchak Rebbe.

For all those who want updates on the news- it seems that their son Moshe (2) has fled with one of the household help members, but the news on the Holtzbergs is still uncertain, as of Thursday afternoon, NY time. His grandparents have flown to Mumbai to try to ascertain the situation.

I'll try to post if I hear anything new.
For the news articles- try YWN here, or the NY Times here. Reports are saying 327 injured, and 125 killed.
Hashem should send a yeshua to all of those there.

Erev Shabbos #5

Here's my Erev Shabbos post for this week- as I seem to have a bit of time (I've been invited out for both meals- shame on me that I'm not cooking!!)

What to give as a gift for those you're going to?

When I was in Israel, for seminary, more often than not, the gift was store-bought food, usually candy or rugalach for the children, or a bottle of good wine for the parents. I tried to spend a minimal amount of money, yet invested time to make it look nice. And I always brought a gift, whether they said to or not- they appreciated it anyways.

I lived in NY for an extended period of time, and when I went out for Shabbos there- I also brought gifts, usually store-bought, but after a while, the families that I routinely went to, requested that I not bring gifts anymore- and they meant it.

Now, as I'm here in Israel- I still feel like I should bring gifts. But, these families with children probably wouldn't want a large amount of candy- or a bottle of wine. Oftentimes I find myself giving home-baked goods- like a cake on a platter, or cookies for the kids. Sometimes, with close friends, I even find myself offering a kugel or side dish for the meal- knowing how hard it is to cook a full Shabbos for many kids and guests.

I don't think I would have done that in the US- too many people are hechsher conscious of where their food comes from- so home-baked may not have been the best choice. But, it seems that in my neighborhood- everyone assumes that I use Badatz ingredients (which I do) and keep to high standards- so they are more than happy to take the delicious food, if I do say so myself :-)

So which is better? The store-bought, or the home-baked? Both probably show my degree of affection and gratefulness...but is one better than the other? Does home-baked show I put more time and thought into it- or was I just baking for myself and made extra? Does store-bought mean that I spent more money, and therefore it means more? Or does it show I was too lazy to do it myself?

Either way- it seems that it's nice to give a gift to those you head to for Shabbos.

So, I'm off to bake a cake or two.
Have a Gut Shabbos!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kotel Adventures- OII #2

So, I went to the Kotel yesterday- as written about in an earlier post.
I went there, because I haven't gone in a while- and I have wanted to go.
But also because I needed to get something done in the Old City.

I've had a bracelet, made of silver, and etched with the 7 gates of Yerushalayim on it, for about the last 5 years. I never take it off- wear it to shower, sleep, swim...

It kept me thinking about the Holy City while I was in America, and here it keeps me thinking about how lucky I am to be here! So many Tzaddikim (righteous people) (the Gra- the Vilna Gaon for example) never made it here- and here I am- how am I worthy?

But, to make a long story a bit shorter, after five years, I bent it a bit too far, and it started to crack, along the engraving. Needless to say, I was quite saddened.

So, I decided to go where I got it from and see if it could be fixed.
I headed off to the Old City after my visit to the Kotel, and headed to a small shop next to the Cardo. The more famous shop is Hadera? (sp.), which is where all the seminary girls go to get

their trinkets.
I headed to a small shop owned by two silversmiths, a father and daughter- with the last name Ben-Yekusiel. They use their small shop as a workshop as well, and create intricate designs, in the Yemenite fashion. I met the father a long time ago- and he told me that their family has been making these items for generations. He has a daughter, so he trained her in the art as well. Their work is truly exquisite- (of course with prices to match- but well worth it)- fitting for any Shabbos table, or just as a magnificent work of art and craftsmanship.

I bought my small bracelet from them, and the daughter engraved it for me with the 7 gates, and with the pasuk "Yerushalayim Harim Saviv Lah"- "Jerusalem, hills surround her...".
So, I headed back- and it's been a long time since I've been there.

I opened the door, and the daughter was there. I told her she probably wouldn't recognize me, but she said my face was familiar. I told her how I bought my bracelet 5 years ago, and now I'm married and living here in the Aretz. I asked her if she could fix it for me- and she said it would be her pleasure.

Watching a silversmith work is a fascinating thing. If you want just to see it- head to their shop- it's amazing. She fixed the crack, re-etched the line, and buffed it to maintain the silver. Unfortunately, the patina of older silver that had happened to the bracelet, after 5 years of wearing- disappeared- but now I have it for another 5 years.

She took the time to do this in the middle of her work day, and took care in her work.
When she finished- with a bracelet as good as new- I asked her if I could pay for her work.
She refused payment. She said it was her pleasure, and she loves seeing her own work again- cherished and used. I was shocked- as she did spend time on it, and effort. She refused again, and said, if I'd like, I could donate the money I would have paid her to tzedaka.

Wow- so special. She fixes something for me that many others would say- too bad, you bought it, you used it for 5 years, now it's your problem. Then, she refuses payment. And, to top it all off- she then asks me to give the money I would have given her to tzedaka.

Only In Israel.

Stop by her shop if you're ever in the Old City. I can't say you'll be able to afford anything there- but watching her and her father at work is a wonderful experience. And you could tell her I sent you :)

Tzedaka- From the Heart

I visited the Kotel (Western Wall) yesterday- to get something else done (story for another post), and of course, before walking through the gates, I needed to check my wallet.
Why, you may ask?

Well, there are at least 20 ladies on the women's side of the Kotel who collect tzedaka there, daily. They could be collecting for themselves, for Hachnosat Kallah, for a yeshiva, for a kollel, or many other such things. I have asked them once or twice who they collect for- but usually it is a cause that I can donate a shekel to, at least, or something like that.

So, I checked my wallet- was assured that I had at least 20 shekel on me, and set out.
Immediately, they asked in their pleading voices for tzedaka. I can't refuse- it's very hard for me to refuse a woman collecting. After all, we have an inner sense of tznius, of busha, (embarassment) of not being in the limelight- if a woman has to go out collecting tzedaka- it means she's usually in dire straights, with no one to help her, and she has no male children or a husband to help either.

So, I handed out a shekel to each one- making sure no one would get more than the others (they notice who gets more or less.)

(Oh, and if you're judging me as to why I only have a shekel per person- I'm sorry- but I also need money for food and lodging...I could try to give more- but usually I can't- as I give to the people who need tzedaka in Geula as well, plus, I can only give a mashehu without asking my husband for permission for more (he usually says yes, but if he's not there....)

Usually, they thank me- and I wish them the best- that they should have hatzlacha, and kol tuv.
And, I mean it. The words come from my heart, as do the money- I want them to be able to give more to the poor, I want them to no longer need tzedaka...

But yesterday, when I gave a shekel to a woman- and wished her all the best- her reply was, "A Shekel? Zeh Lo Kesef. (that's not money.)"

So I told her that was all I had, and she left it at that.

But it hurt. It hurt that she didn't care whether I meant it or not, that all she saw was a girl, probably American, who gives her "just a shekel", and then leaves.

I'm sure she's in pain. I'm sure that she has a very rough life. I'm judging her dan l'kaf zechus that she has so many tzaros in her life that when someone hands her a small bit of tzara, she reacts like that.

I called my mother, another frequent visitor to Israel, to tell her about it- we both sighed on the phone, at the tzara, and the pity on the situation. She told me that someone once threw the shekel back at her- signifying that it was too small a donation.

I guess this is a David HaMelech moment. That when someone lectures you- it's not from that person, it's from Hashem.

Maybe Hashem is telling me I should give more. Maybe Hashem is telling me not to think so highly of myself- that I have money and she doesn't- the wheel of fortune could turn at any moment.

I wish her, and all the other women who are out there collecting- all the best. Kol Tuv, and much Hatzlacha.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Okay, I'm using this blog to vent a little bit.

I read this post on Aidel Knaidel....and it kinda bugged me a bit. I live in a neighborhood where there are not so many young kollel couples- so I don't have much to judge myself against- as to why I'm not pushing a baby stroller yet, or the latest fashions, or the shiur I just HAD to attend- or else be ostracized from the N'shei of the community.

If you do live in those communities- don't get JEALOUS. DO something instead! Read my post about tzedaka- and get involved!! Want a child- help others with children, be a mom for a day- substitute for the amazing ganenet in your neighborhood when she needs help- for free. Work in a soup kitchen, volunteer at Yad Eliezer....the possibilities are endless.

I'm frustrated because I try to view a time without children as a time to help those who have children, as a time to offer my services, because I don't have major demands on my time yet. I'm blessed to be married- and that didn't happen the year after sem either!

So, yeah- I'm slightly frustrated. But I'm grateful for what I have. Thank You Hashem, for giving me the ability to help others, and eventually, be"H, if sometime I need help in the future, I'll have someone who might want to give to me.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"

Yep, famous quote from FDR. How does it apply today?

Well, yesterday, I decided to do a favor for a neighbor, and simultaneously accomplish some much needed errands. I was going to head to my local Bank HaPoalim and deposit money, along with slipping a check into the box for her in an already sealed envelope.

When I arrived there, I found pandemonium raging. At least thirty people were there, clamoring for something- I knew not what.

When I walked in, I noticed the computers and ATMs were all down.

I then inquired from a bank employee, who told me that there was a major computer failure in the entire Bank HaPoalim system from "Eilat to Metulla", and they were supposed to have it fixed, but it's been two days.

What could I do at the bank, you may ask? Well, the nice employee told me that basically, he
can't guarantee any money deposited yesterday, because he can't print receipts or record transactions. Not only that, but they didn't know when it would be fixed.

So, I dejectedly headed home, hoping to get to the bank another day, when the computer bugs were gone.

The funny thing was, that rumors started flying. No matter what any employee of Bank HaPoalim said, all the bystanders were sure that the bank was crashing, taking all their money with it. Some said other banks had the same virus, others said that Bank HaPoalim had lost everything in the US stock market- fears were rampant.

I stopped by my neighbor to tell her that I'll have to take care of her check tomorrow- and here too, she inquired if the bank had failed, if they would lose everything in the account....

So I turned to my faithful internet- and low and behold: computer failure. (Thanks, IBM). And, it was up and running again by the time the banks closed. (I have yet to verify this by going to a bank this morning.)

So- what is there to fear? Banks crashing, money disappearing? Nope- nothing but fear itself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Charity Begins At Home

I lived for a couple years in NY, where I met my husband. During that time period, I had occasion to go shopping for clothing, and as is the custom in my family, whenever I buy something new, I have to give away something old. Not necessarily old, just something that doesn't fit, seems to have one too many stains, or something that I bought on sale, intending to wear, yet it never seemed to match anything.

So, I trotted down to my neighbor to ask her where there was a gemach in NY for used clothes. She shrugged her shoulders and said that she doesn't know of any.

So I asked someone else- again, same response.
One person said she knows one family who collects shoes, but not clothing. And the shoes have to be brand new.

I kept asking, and asking- no one seemed to have a clue. There were no drives going on, no advertisements for a giant collecting agency, or for a day to drop gently used clothing off. Nothing.

So, I sent my clothing back to my home town, where there is a dedicated woman who operates a clothing collection out of one room in her house, and sends it to Israel. It's done anonymously, she just receives garbage bags at her front door, and then sends it off.

Shame. I wish I could have given to an NY gemach, but I guess that they are much harder to find.

Israel on the other hand- is totally the opposite. I received a letter just yesterday, advertising the used clothing collection place in my neighborhood. Open up a directory- the Israeli one, or the Newcomer's Guide- and you'll see thousands of gemachs, hundreds of clothing collection agencies- and some for things I never would have thought of. Free loan funds- check. Gowns for chasunas- check.

But have you ever heard of a breast milk gemach? That one startled me a bit- until I heard about the family that runs it.

It seems that there are babies born who's mothers don't have enough milk for them. Not only that, but some of these babies have major allergies, to common food products- making them allergic to most formulas.

So, this family started a gemach. Nursing mothers, who are willing to go on a strict diet (no wheat, soy, sugar, dairy, specific vegetables....) do that for 2-3 days, and then pump extra milk for these babies. The milk goes to this family, where they store it, and then give it to those babies in need. That way, they can live on breast milk, which is perfect for their digestive systems, until they can figure out a way past their allergies.

Who would have thought of this? First of all, the family that did- is exceptional- thinking of something like that, and then implementing it. Second of all- the mothers that do this are also exceptional- not eating their favorite foods, and not for their own child, but for someone else's.

Mi K'amcha Yisroel.

Here are some phenomenal articles about charity in Israel- from if you're interested in further reading- and if you're looking for a worthwhile charitable contribution):

The Chicken Lady, Mission to Care, Dining with Dignity, Out of the Mouth of Roni(ZAKA), Jerusalem's Supermen, Henny's Secret (Machlis Family)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time Changes

Indicative of my own persona, I'm posting this one at around 11 AM.

For those who wonder what I'm referring to- it's the fact that I haven't quite adjusted to the whole "get up at 6 am, rest from 1-3 pm, eat dinner at 7, and in bed by 10:30" lifestyle.
I've always been a night bird, someone who stays up well past 3, and then takes advantage of her mornings to sleep till at least 9.

Heading to work during the week does involve a challenge- but I seem to be able to wake up by 7:30 and still make it on time.

Israelis on the other hand, have a totally different clock. It seems my neighbors are up at 6, the buses running and full by 7, and the phone calls to other people can start at 7:15. I mean, in the US, we don't call people till 9, or 8:30 the earliest! Here, I've received calls at 7:00, 6:30, even one really brave individual who called at 6:08 on the dot. (Sorry to all of those who I've answered the phone, sounding a tad groggy.)

And the 1-3 rest hour? Who invented that? I either have to get to the bank before 12 or after 4, but only on certain days of the week. Post office, government agencies, none of which are open after 1, or only reopen after 4 on some days of the week.

Imagine, if you will the same thing occuring in the US- I think people would go insane from the sheer "mah baiyah" ness of it all. Can you imagine if the stock market would just pause, from 1-3 every day? Or if the banks were closed during those hours. I think havoc would ensue.

How do people who work handle it? How do they get to the bank before 6:30 in traffic, if they end their work day at 5? It may be good for those who only work from 8-1, but what about the rest of Israel?

It's one of those confusing things that I guess I have to get used to. Oh well, WTI- welcome to Israel.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Needing Help Distinguishing

In reading Bad4's post on how she continuously gets 'red' (suggested) shidduchim based on her sterling qualities of being different than the norm, (what is normal, anyway?) I started thinking.

I'm constantly being asked to look for shidduchim (as if the fact I have a ring on my finger makes me some kinda expert - um, newlywed, that should say how much experience I have!) and when I try to make a shidduch, the guys ask- what makes this girl different from all the other girls? (I can just hear the Pesach tunes coming, and it's not even Chanukah.)

Is difference good? Or is it bad? How do we make someone stand out without being different, or make some one different seem the norm? I think these labels (kickback to ProfK- and her posts on Terms for Shidduchim- sorry, couldn't link) are starting to get confusing.

In Israel- people have differences. And they are recognized for them. Brisk vrs. Mir, Yashan/Chadash/Sniff/Whatever, neighborhood, hair covering, religious status, kippah covering, you name it- everyone has differences. What's so bad about that? It helps me a ton, in being able to describe people past the general qualities that I believe everyone has- kind, sweet, nice, middos, mentch.....

Labels are horrible- I get that. (Stereotyping, no clear definition, molds....) But what do I do when I get asked that Pesach question again?

How do I describe differences without resorting to labels?
Any comments out there would be much appreciated- for all of my friends who are single, special and different from each other, and for all the guys out there who are single, special, and different from each other.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Covering Up

I'm married, as you may have guessed- by my references to Mr. NMF, and by what it says on my profile.

When I got married, as I have grown up frum, I knew I would be covering my hair, and like the community which I lived in, that would usually comprise of buying a shaitel.

My mother wears shaitels (wigs), along with falls, berets, or hats outside the house, while snoods, and comfortable Israeli scarves inside the house. So, when I got married- I assumed I would do the same.

Hats were not really my style, or the style of the community in which I or my husband lived- and snoods were not commonly worn outside the house, as they were perceived as too casual.

Most people wore falls, or shaitels outside the house, while they reserved a comfortable pre-tied bandanna, or snoods inside the house. I also love Israeli scarves- they are the easiest for me to slip on inside the house, and the most comfortable to sleep in.

So, I wore a fall, and wore a shaitel for Shabbos- leaving my snoods inside the house, and my scarves just for sleeping. The shaitel was hot, and tiring, especially since I always had long hair growing up, so I wanted a long shaitel as well. I ended up clipping my shaitel into a banana clip or ponytail quite a bit, simply to escape from the heat.

And then I moved to Israel. I continued wearing my shaitel, and shvitzing, and watching it oxidize in the gorgeous sunshine. And then it hit me. I'm not in the US any more. So I started to watch and see.

My neighbors are mothers with kids- they wear snoods outside, almost all the time. I only see shaitels on Shabbos. Some are Sephardi- with the gorgeous scarves wrapped so elegantly. Some come from more chassidishe homes, with long scarves or cloths wrapped around every inch.
When I head to more JAPpy neighborhoods (Jewish American Princess, for those who don't know.) I see the women wearing shaitels, but mostly ponytail ones or really short- to deal with the heat.

And I said- Why in heaven's name am I wearing a shaitel? Why do I persist in wearing a long shaitel when there are thousands of stunning bandannas, scarves, tichels, snoods, and other beautiful items to wear? I belong to a community now where most women wear snoods- and they're right! It's hot outside! There are kids to worry about and places to go, work to do and people to see- wear something beautiful, colorful, and stylish- wear a snood, a scarf, a beret- but why wear a shaitel? Shaitels are beautiful as well- but can be saved for Shabbos!

And to think it took me so long to realize this- that there are so many Yidden here in Israel, and so many different ways that they all cover their hair- so many minhagim, so many different viewpoints- (for more information- read the fascinating book Hide and Seek by Lynne Schreiber, or Oz V'Hadar Levusha's section on hair covering (I know- I said the dreaded book's name- don't stone me.) )

So as of right now- I'm wearing a beautiful pink snood- excellently complementing what I'm wearing. And- I'm proud of it! I even walked into the JAP neighborhood, and had some stares- by all the shaitel wearers, but most just ignored- since there are so many different women all covering their hair different ways, everyone just gets used to it.

Mi K'amcha Yisroel- we women can all look beautiful, stylish, and gorgeous- while still listening to the Torah's precepts and covering our heads.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Healthy Minded

Living in Israel has given me an entirely new perspective on a healthy lifestyle.

America seems to be the land of 'super-size me', of fries and hamburgers, of cars and sedentary lifestyles, of three large meals a day, and steak for supper.

Israel is the land of walking, of salad, of exercise and enough sleep, of the 1-3 rest hours, and the day beginning at 7 am, 6 days a week.

Israel also is the land of alternative medicine, of therapy, reflexology, massage, chiropractors, vitamins, minerals, and supplements.

America is the land where DOs are a lesser class (no offense meant to any fine DO), anyone who does yoga is looked at slightly strangely (you mean they stretch, for fun?), and where the cesarean section rate is 50 percent, compared with Israel's 20.

I'm told by doctors in Israel, MDs, with funding from the Kupat Cholim to take vitamins, to get more B12, and to catch up on my D3. Oh, and have I tried swimming or yoga?

I'm told by doctors in America, also MDs, to take medication at the first sign of problems, to try to spend less time on the computer, and oh yes, that'll be X dollars copay.

Is it just me, or do I live a healthier lifestyle in Israel?

I walk (since I don't have a car, nor do I need one) far more than I used to, I eat healthier and take vitamins, with all the delicious fruits and vegetables around me, and the dessert of my choice is usually frozen yogurt with fruit. How's that for healthy living?

I think America should learn a thing or two from Israel and other European countries. It might help to solve obesity problems, and save lives. We may end up living longer as well.

So here's cheers, to being healthy-minded!


As emailed to me, and posted on SerandEz, Leah Larson has won the contest from Wells Fargo's Someday Stories!
Congratulations, Leah- and continue your excellent work!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Time Zone Traveler

Here's an amazing thing about Israel: We're 7 hours ahead of the US. That's right, 7.

Why is that a good thing?

Well for those yeshiva bachurim and seminary girls here in the Aretz, it's a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because at around 4:00 pm, it's 9:00 am in Chutz La'aretz, meaning that just as they finish classes or have a short break, they can call their folks back home and ask them for more American cream cheese, or diet peach snapple, to tide them over. This also saves money on phone bills, as there are only limited times people can call America, meaning less phone calls in general. It's a bad thing because they can't call 24/7, meaning that they actually have to improve their math skills.

"Let's see, 12-7 is 5, then add the 4 hours after 12...yeah, I think it's 9:00 am....although I could be waking them all up at 3 am for all I know about subtraction. Sheesh."

Other good things about being ahead of the times (pun intended). If there is a project that must be completed in America, someone could send it to me, fall asleep unhindered, while I complete it during my daylight hours, and still send it back to them so by the time they wake, they have a finished product! Walla- virtues of being 7 hours ahead.

Also, when you fly back to America (chas v'shalom!) you gain a day back that you lost- so it's a win-win situation!

Bad things about being 7 hours ahead:

Well, the early Shabbos times, for one. I can barely squeeze in a phone call to my relatives on the East Coast, and for those in the Midwest and the West Coast- well, almost nearly impossible.

I can't view the latest blog posts till sometime in the afternoon, when all the "lazy" (just kidding, everyone!) Americans wake up and start posting.

I view simchas on Onlysimchas a day late, since by the time the engagement is reported in the nighttime hours of the US, it is early morning for me....leaving me clueless about happenings until the middle of the day- shame.

I still think that the good far outweighs the bad. Anyone else have any thoughts as to what those magical 7 hours do for them?

So, enjoy the extra 7 hours folks, it's like an extra present for those lucky enough to live here in Israel!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sundays, Ahh the Fond Memories

Alright- there are some things I miss about America. Sundays, for one.

I mean- Fridays are the day off here in Israel- which is great for me. I can help my neighbors, cook for Shabbos, and generally putter around until Shabbos arrives in a fanfare of siren, sunset, and silence.

But, after Shabbos, after the Motzei Shabbos cleanup (why do all my dishes seem to triple by the end of Shabbos?) (and why do I have to have them all done by Sunday morning to feel as if I'm in control again of my household?) I have free time as well. This Shabbos started at 4:05, so it was over fairly early- making me finished by around 9, with a short nap as well!

Then, you wake up the next day- and POOF! Sunday. A work day. Back to square one- job, home, life, friends, teachers, kids...all simultaneously arrive on the doorstep, fresh and early Sunday morning. And, it continues like that till Friday comes around again.

Shabbos is the break here, I get it. There is no logical reason for Sunday off- it should be another school day or work day, as we get Fridays off early, and Shabbos off entirely.

So why do I miss it? Why do I miss the feeling of sleeping late, spending time with family, catching up on errands, and generally lazing around?

Am I a spoiled person who needs the time off? Isn't Shabbos supposed to be a day of rest and Kedusha- rest in the appropriate way, not laziness, like the classical American Sunday?

But, I feel like I need another day to catch up, another day to finish the errands that can't be done at night, or on a hectic Friday. I feel like it's too soon to jump into another workweek.

So what say you all? Sundays or no Sundays?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

To Buy, or Not To Buy

To preface this post, I would like to say that thank G-d, I have a good income, and I live in a neighborhood that is far from being 'poor', with most families able to support themselves.

Luxuries, wants, and needs are very different here than anywhere I've lived before. ProfK speaks all the time about what our wants and needs should be, and how to explain fiscal economics to even young children (phenomenal post- thanks!), and she's right. There are major differences between these two things, and how to achieve the balance, without running into debt, is what the American public as a whole is struggling with.

But in Israel- it seems there is a different standard. With so much coming from the country itself- health care, transportation, child support, schooling- there are less major expenses to pay here. So people live on a different standard- they get paid less as well, because there isn't such a high standard of living. And people are OK with that.

I'm not saying that there aren't people living in the red. I'm also not saying that there are people who are making excellent livings here as well (try dealing with real estate agents!) .

So the idea of luxuries, wants, and needs falls slightly lower than America.
A car- that's a want, or a luxury, not a need- since in most places there is adequate bus transportation. After school activities- usually a want, sometimes a need, since the children get out of school between 1-3.
Designer clothing- luxury. American clothing- luxury. And basics- toys for the kids, a 10 speed bike, even Kellogg's cornflakes instead of the Israeli brand- all could become wants, instead of needs. Cleaning lady- definitely a luxury.

I almost get ashamed when I walk into the grocery store and pick up a 14 shekel bottle of Shoko. How many families in my neighborhood would stare at it, and just walk past- because it's a want not a need? Plenty.

Saving money by folding down a stroller on the bus- 5 shekel. That 5 shekel could be used to buy 5 lebens for your 5 kids. So- paying it to the bus company- luxury.

And you know- the kids are happy here, despite having less. Their parents budget adequately, shower the kids with love and affection instead of toys or games, and all seems to run happily.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Israel's Mayoral Election

Ouch. Okay, I am definitely not an expert on Israeli politics.....but when the frum community decides to split over politics, based upon what their respective rabbaim say- that's sad. That's a lack of achdus, and a major cause of friction, machlokes, and other things.

R' Elyashiv endorsed Porush, the Gerrer chassidim and Rebbe endorsed Barkat- I truthfully don't know who would be better or worse, who's policies are right, or not.

The rumors floating around are that Barkat would divide Yerushalyim. He denied it outright according to the NY Times.

The rumors floating around were that Porush would have provided more affordable housing. Seems that both candidates would have done that.

This entire election has been fraught with tension between most parties- between Shas, Agudah, Degel, and UTJ.....

And now, at the end of the day- Nir Barkat is the new mayor of Yerushalayim (thanks, YWN).

Was all the fighting worth it? Couldn't they have been civilized? And not only that- I think that Yerushalayim must be the only election in which half the people did not know why they were voting for who they were voting, but they voted for that candidate because their respective Rav said so. That's a great reason- but I'd also like to be informed.

It's very sad that Klal Yisroel is so divided. I hope that achdus will come to us in the future.

Past and Present Unite

Ancestry is quite interesting. Where your loved ones came from, why they left there, and where they went to is always a fascinating topic of conversation.

Sometimes you know the exact dates involved, down to the last decimal point, while other times it's more fuzzy. My cousin spent a long time researching his side of the family, and created an intricate family tree, allowing me hours of tiSme to reminisce and pour over the interesting facts and names.

On my other side of the family, less is known. Less is remembered, records are more hazardous, and the people involved are slowly forgetting what exactly happened. Still, you never know, and the family stories that are known about my great-grandparents have been passed through the generations.

In Israel- there are people who are 7th generation Yerushalmis. Some of their grandchildren are now heading into the 9th generation. Can you believe that?

It's so amazing- they know when they came into this land, and have stayed here since! My family is Litvish- so they headed from Lithuania and Russia into the US; no one came to Israel.
But these families headed right over here- some Sephardi, some Yemenite, and some Ashkenazic Jews as well.

I've read some phenomenal books about the old Yishuv of Yerushalayim- I'm sure most people who are the least bit curious have read some.

But it's always amazing to walk into a holy site, start up random conversation with a fellow Yid (Jew) and find out that his family has been living here since Turkish times, or even before.

Ancestry is important- but it's wonderful to see it come to life.

Oh, and a very large thank you to Mrs. M- who was my favorite teacher of Israel history, and a
7th generation Yerushalmi herself.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Vote, Please

If you haven't already- as I've done- vote for Leah Larson, running (under her mother's name, Evelyn, because she's only 17!) in Wells Fargo's Someday Stories Contest. She's an amazing girl who started Yaldah magazine for Jewish girls, completely run and written by them. has a wonderful article written by her, and we're all hoping she'll win the 100,000 dollar prize to keep publishing.
(Thanks Juggling Frogs, for first alerting me to this a long time ago- sorry I haven't posted on it sooner!)

Lost in Translation

It seems that my (formerly excellent) math skills are failing me in this country.

I mean- how hard should it be?

Take a 1.6 million shekel price for an apartment in Yerushalayim, divide by the current exchange rate (according to Janglo, today's is 3.81 shekels to 1 dollar), and shazaam- correct price in dollars. What could be so hard?

Well- I didn't factor in the critical point. The human factor.

Israelis love to bargain, and they love to get the best price. So, whether or not the exchange rate says it's 3.81, it might be according to 4, or 3.5, or that they make up a price in dollars that has nothing to do with the rate, but rather is based on their own idiosyncracies.

This applies as well to getting deals on almost everything- from shopping in Macheneh Yehuda- where you could bargain down the prices to almost half of what they originally asked for, to dealing with the phone company.

I know from my own experience, that if they offer you 60 shekel per month for 2 years, you could probably get them down to 43 shekel for a 6 month commitment period.

Nothing is as it seems.

I wish I was as good a bargainer and poker face/voice as some of my Israeli colleagues- I might even do better than what I've said already.

Some things are not negotiable- imagine me walking into Maayan 2000 and asking to bargain them down on several items. But most things are flexible- and as such, we have to roll with the punches, or end up getting lost in translation.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Go Fight Egged!

Yep- that would be the Israeli version of the phrase, "Go fight City Hall." Egged is 'the man' here in this country- and not surprisingly.

Egged is the major bus company in Israel, traveling from Mt. Chermon in the north to Eilat in the south. Their bus stops occupy most major roads, and their prices are so reasonable that it doesn't pay for most of the country to own cars, since the price of gas in Israel is rather high.

If you want to go anywhere, there is always their helpful website, which can help you track down the Kav (number) bus you'd like, as well as destination, times and general information. I've found it a bit hard to use, as it doesn't like Yerushalayim as a city? for some reason....but I'm sure I'll figure it out soon.

What really is unique about Egged is this: the phone operator service. They actually pick up. And, they know English- and have an option for it on the phone. How come Egged has an 'for English, press 4' but Meuhedet- the leading health insurance Kupat Cholim in the country does not?


Don't these Israelis realize that they had ancestors who came here not knowing Ivrit- and they should try to be kind to new olim who are barely passing their Ulpan? Guess they forgot, and think they've been Israeli since the beginning of time.

I've dealt with many things in Israel- but trying to communicate medical information over the phone to people who don't speak a word of English- has got to be one of the worst. Egged makes it so easy- they speak English, and are happy to translate and repeat as many times as necessary, without transferring you to another person (as so many telephone lines do- like Bezeq, Meuhedet, and others.)

So- yeah, you could try to fight Egged- but it's just not worth it. They do too good of a job.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Erev Shabbos 4

Quick post, as Shabbos is 4:09- yikes!!

Somehow, it always seems that whether Shabbos is at 7:30 or 4:02, we're always ready right on the wire. I guess subconciously we think about the Shabbos time and plan accordingly.

It might be nice to remember these Shabbosim in the later times- in order to help us get ready earlier. After all, if I can do it by 4:09, then I could do it at that same time on a 7:30 Shabbos!

Something to think about.

Gut Shabbos, everyone!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President- Elect number 44

And so, we have the 44th president of the United States of America- President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama. I wish him much luck in dealing with the myriad problems in today's global world.

To name a few:

The economy- in most countries- is in a recession, if not a depression by now.

The political situation in the Middle East- Abbas wants him to get the new PM of Israel (whoever that will be) to agree to divy up Jerusalem- hand over East Jerusalem to the jurisdiction of the PA, and possibly Gaza as well. Not only that, but Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe Israel off the map- so we might be seeing a war with Iran soon, if they continue to produce a nuclear bomb.

The political situation globally- he'll now have to deal with the UN and all that it stands for. Enough said.

The war in Iraq- we'll see if he withdraws, and how that actually plays out.

The state of healthcare in the US- he wants to socialize (sort of) the health system- I hope that it works, as insurance in the US costs a fortune, as compared to here.

That's enough for any president to handle, even with a trillion dollar debt hanging over them.

So- good luck to you, President-Elect Obama! You might need it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Ganenet

Some of the most dedicated, influential people, the most creative and innovative, the ones with the most patience, and the ones who have hearts of gold- those people deserve our undying thanks.

Yes, I'm talking about the ganenet- the preschool teacher or playgroup leader.

These women have a major influence on our children- they see them from 9-1 every day, teach them parsha, middos, sharing, colors, alphabet, name it, they teach it.

They make art projects every week, fit to display on the fridge, and these projects actually make the kid's scribbles look like a work of art, instead of scrap paper.

They cook cookies or treats, and each child feels like they did something.

They oftentimes notice problems long before the parent does- like a child going cross-eyed, or an aggressive behavior that could be stopped.

And they do it all with a smile, a hug, and a praise for the child who did nothing more than learn one color or one letter.

Brachos? Learnt from the ganenet. Davening? Again, the same. And when your child actually knows this week's parsha is Lech L'cha- who taught them that? The ganenet.

You'll say, but I teach them sharing and middos- I'm their parent. Yes, but the ganenet does more. Despite having 14-20 kids to focus on, she teaches everyone of them to stop at stoplights and look both ways. And, she teaches them how to interact with others, who are not members of their own family.

Ganenets deserve the ultimate thanks. Thank you for educating our children so they can grow up to be mentchen. Thank you for all you do. I wish I could have as much patience and love as you do.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Only In Israel #1

I love Israel!! There are so many good things about it- it would take forever to describe.
So, I decided to start a new label- OII- Only In Israel happenings, that occur to me (usually) around a daily basis.

Yesterday, I was asked to visit a certain rav, who lives at the bottom of my neighborhood, while my apartment is at the top of the hill, affording me a beautiful view of Harei Yerushalayim (mountains of Jerusalem). So, off I went- and foolishly did not take anything with me except my cell phone and keys.

My walk down was uneventful, until I got to a major hill right before the rav's house. There, while talking on my cell phone, my cell phone dies suddenly. I'm so confused by this occurance, that I neglected to watch where I was going, and tripped, rolling down the hill a bit. Ouch.

B"H- nothing major happened- a bit bruised up, but quite alright. And, I continued to the rav's house.

On my way back, I climbed up that hill, and then the next hill, and the next. By the third, I started to get tired, and wished I had brought my bus pass. The ankle that I had tripped on started to hurt- and I paused to rest in the middle of the hill.

I see a taxi- from Monit HaTzomet- driving rather slowly behind me, as if he thinks I have money and I'll take him. But I don't- so I kept walking. At this point, he's basically trailing behind me, while I stop at the next bench to check how my foot is doing.

He opens his window and says, "Geveret (ma'am) would you like a ride?"

So, I, the honest person say- "Todah (thank you), but I don't have any money on me."

So he- the nice Kippah Srugah wearing taxi driver- says, "Who cares?! Come on in, I'll give you a lift!"

I'm shocked- as most taxis are searching for people who can actually pay. So I respond again, "But I don't have any cash on me."

"Mah Baayah (what's the problem)?" he responds, and lets me hop on in.

I asked him to take me just up the hill (so at least I would be on level ground for the last part till my apartment, and he joked with me that he thought I wanted to head to Bnai Brak! He would have taken me all the way home, but I felt it was too much of an imposition- as he was doing this for FREE.

I asked him his name on the way out- Itzik- and thanked him profusely. He wished me a good night, and that I should feel good (Tehei Briah- you should be healthy?= not the best translation, but that's what it means.)

How many NY cab drivers would stop for a tired pedestrian?

How many cab drivers at all would gladly do it- even if the pedestrian stated that they had no money?

Only In ISRAEL!! (Oh, and if you see a Monit HaTzomet taxi driver who's name is Itzik- tell him thank you again!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Materialism and Spirituality

Wow- with the fact I was sick right before Shabbos- I had some time to catch up on my reading. YWN's Out of the Mailbox section and B4S's comment have generated a bunch of ideas/critiques about the society some Jews live in, and why a new line of materialism has been drawn.
After spending a Shabbos thinking about it, I realized that Israel might not be an exception.

I mean- a generation ago, a child might be teased if he didn't have patches on his pants.
Nowadays- a child might be teased if the pants didn't come from a brand-name company, or his glasses don't match the newest fad.

Where do we draw the line? How much is too materialistic, and how much is just how society functions nowadays? It's a funny concept.

I grew up out-of-town (for all those interested, that's outside NY and Lakewood, NJ) and so we didn't have this pressure to show up at school with $110 dollar Ugg boots, or shirts with a little horse on them.

But, in different areas, the social line of how much one should involve themselves in the latest trends may, and are different.

For example, in Israel- 'American' is better- no matter if it is or isn't. I can tell good quality clothes- and some Israeli brands carry just as good, if not better merchandise.

Teenage girls here shop at Zara's, because of the American style clothing and the reasonable prices when it goes on sale, and all of them order their shoes online from the US and send them with relatives.

Small boys must have the Saret (ribbon) around the edge of their kippa, with 6 sections and no button, if they want to get into Ponevezh Yeshiva. (No joke. If they wear anything else- it's considered bummy).

So are we to say to these children- don't focus on materialism, it doesn't really matter what kippa you wear, or what label your shirt says.....but it does, in a way. It will affect them- how others view them, how they see themselves- and only children with very strong self images and very supportive parents and friends will be able to survive the onslaught.

Should parents give in? Should they buy the designer handbags for their children, give them knockoffs, or have them earn it themselves? Or should they take a strong stand and say no- also a hard choice, as their children need to be very strong in order to withstand the teasing. (And don't say move out of Place X- because it exists everywhere- with different standards of course- as shown by my examples of Israel.)

It's not a simple answer or a simple question. One can have either one or the other- Olam HaZeh or Olam HaBaah- this world or the next. So how much is too much? How much is materialism, and how much is just existence in the world we live in?